On Tuesday 23 April, in Abu Dhabi, Saud Alsanousi was announced winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. In this podcast, recorded the morning after the announcement, deputy editor Ellah Allfrey spoke to Alsanousi about the place of guest workers in the Gulf countries, book clubs in Kuwait and the writing life. The podcast is in English and Arabic.

Saud Alasanousi is a Kuwaiti novelist and journalist, born in 1981. His work has appeared in a number of Kuwaiti publications, including Al-Watan newspaper and Al-Arabi, Al-Kuwait and Al-Abwab magazines. He currently writes for Al-Qabas newspaper. His first novel, The Prisoner of Mirrors, was published in 2010 and in the same year won the fourth Leila Othman Prize, awarded for novels and short stories by young writers. In the ‘Stories on the Air’ competition, organized in July 2011 by Al-Arabi magazine with BBC Arabic, he won first place for his story ‘The Bonsai and the Old Man’.

 

Synopsis of the novel, Saq al-Bamboo (The Bamboo Stalk) published by Arab Scientific Publishers Beirut, 2012

Josephine comes to Kuwait from the Philippines to work as a house servant, leaving behind her studies and family, who are pinning their hoped for a better future on her. In the house where she works, she meets Rashid, the spoiled only son of Ghanima and Issa. After a brief love affair, he decides to marry Josephine, on the condition that the marriage remains a secret. But things do not go according to plan. Josephine becomes pregnant with José and Rashid abandons both mother and baby. They return to the Philippines. There José grows up in poverty, clinging to the hope of returning to his father’s country when he is eighteen. It is at this point that the novel, which Alsanousi writers as a translation from the son’s Filipino text into Arabic, begins.

This is a daring work which looks at the phenomenon of foreign workers in Arab countries and deals with the problem of identity through the life of a young man of mixed race who returns to Kuwait, the ‘dream’ or ‘heaven’ which his mother had described to him since he was a child.

 

 

The 2013 Shortlist:

Hail Mary by Sinan Antoon (Iraqi)
Published by Al-Jamal

Me, She and the Other Women by Jana Elhassan (Lebanese)
Published by Arab Scientific Publishers

The Beaver by Mohammed Hasan Alwan (Saudi Arabian)
Published by Dar al-Saqi

Our Master by Ibrahim Issa (Egyptian)
Published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation

The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi (Kuwaiti)
Published by Arab Scientific Publishers

His Excellency the Minister by Hussein Al-Wad (Tunisian)
Published by Dar al-Janub

 

Photgraph by Kheridine Mabrouk

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